Bengals Free Agency

Free Agency 2018: Bengals’ decision on Tyler Eifert will be crucial

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CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 4: Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a pass over the defense of Rodney McLeod #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 4: Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a pass over the defense of Rodney McLeod #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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As the 2018 offseason agenda gets going, the Bengals will have a tough decision to make on Tyler Eifert’s future in Cincinnati.

With the offseason agenda ramping up, thoughts of free agency and the Bengals’ scenario are underway. With an estimated $38.2m in cap space, Cincinnati will have to deal with 10 unrestricted free agents. But, the one player with the most question marks is Tyler Eifert. The Bengals will have a decision to make on the future of their ailing touchdown machine.

After the 2017 campaign, the verdict is still out on Eifert and how he could help the Bengals. It’s easy to forget that just two seasons ago he put up numbers that were comparable to Rob Gronkowski, sans the yardage. In 2015, Eifert was the go-to target for Andy Dalton. The offense revolved around him running seam routes and getting open across the middle of the field. In fact, much of Dalton’s success was due to Tyler’s ability to get open and draw coverage away from A.J. Green.

That successful year saw Eifert pull up 13 TDs to lead all tight ends. But, that was then. And since that breakout season, Eifert and the Bengals have seen a decline in the on-field presence that made defenses account for Tyler’s whereabouts. Now, it’s come down to weighing the options.

The pros and cons 

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Keeping Eifert locked in Cincinnati may seem like an interesting scenario. He’s fast, has the ability to run routes like a wideout and has that untapped potential that makes offensive coordinators drool. Just think of what Bill Lazor and his staff can do with him on the field.

And there’s the problem. With all the abilities and talent Eifert carries around, he’s rarely in the huddle. In his five years with the Bengals, he’s played in only 39 of 80 potential games. So, what do you do with that kind of…production? Yes, the need for a tight end in this offense is paramount. But, is it worth taking a gamble on a player with an unstable history? I respect Eifert to the utmost. In fact, keeping a healthier version of Mr. E would be great. But, this is a business. And business hasn’t been (pardon the usage) boomin’ since 2015.

Is it fair to keep a player on the roster and expect his potential to bloom? Maybe that’s not a fair question. Dalton has been the starter since 2011 and hasn’t delivered a playoff win. But, Andy has been on the field (with the exception of 2015) throughout the drought.

There’s no doubt that the offense is a beast when Eifert is involved. Yet, there is another option that the Bengals may find more appealing. Mike Brown has yet to offer an extension to the talented tight end. So, that leaves the door wide open for another possibility.

The other Tyler

Tyler Kroft did a nice job filling in for Eifert. But, he wasn’t the playmaker that the Bengals need to cause damage in the postseason.

It’s a no-brainer when considering the cost. Eifert will be a nice cap hit at close to $4.8m while Kroft will ease under at $800k.

Yet, it all comes back to who the Bengals feel will be a better fit for the offense. Kroft came out of the shadows to grab 42 passes and 402 yards. He was second on the team in TD receptions with seven. Is his production enough to warrant the Bengals signing him over Eifert? Yes.

Next: 3 Keys To A 2018 Turnaround

The NFL is still a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” league. While Kroft was contributing to the cause, Eifert was mending. That’s not his fault, but there’s a stigma of being fragile with Eifert. And Brown is not going to pay for a player that can’t stay on the football field.

If the Bengals are going to roll with potential, Kroft could be the man at tight end for 2018.

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